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Facing the Dangers of Nanotech 172

Posted by Zonk
from the he's-not-looking-for-a-diamond-age dept.
bethr writes "Technology Review has a Q&A with Andrew Maynard, the science advisor for the Woodrow Wilson International Center's nanotechnology project regarding the dangers of nanomaterials and why we have to act now." From the article: "Individual experiments have indicated that if you develop materials with a nanostructure, they do behave differently in the body and in the environment. We know from animal studies that very, very fine particles, particles with high surface area, lead to a greater inflammatory response than the same amount of larger particles. We also know that they can enter the lining of the lungs and get through to the blood and enter other organs. There is some evidence that nanoparticles can move into the brain along the olfactory nerve, so this is completely circumventing the blood-brain barrier."
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Facing the Dangers of Nanotech

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 17, 2006 @01:20PM (#16887540)
    Arrrgh! help! they're in my brain!

    • by couchslug (175151)
      What is the potential for nanoparticle chem warfare agents?
      Nanoparticles should disperse quite well, and if they get past conventional filters they could obsolete billions of dollars in NBC defenses.
      Is a nanoparticle dirty bomb practical?
  • But, but, but... (Score:1, Interesting)

    by LiquidCoooled (634315)
    Haven't we had nanotechnology for ages?

    Didn't I just read something about ancient swords [slashdot.org] using nanotubes?
  • by thrillseeker (518224) on Friday November 17, 2006 @01:21PM (#16887574)
    ... worthy to be afraid of.
  • In sum (Score:5, Funny)

    by ch-chuck (9622) on Friday November 17, 2006 @01:23PM (#16887598) Homepage
    Nanotech: The Asbestos of the Future.

    As Mork would say, "Nano, Nano!"

  • Since assembly-based nano isn't anywhere near yet, whenever news articles use the term 'nano', what they really mean is something more like 'chemical' or 'molecular'. TFA is no exception, really. So when he says 'There is some evidence that nanoparticles can move into the brain along the olfactory nerve, so this is completely circumventing the blood-brain barrier.' we can easily translate this as saying 'There is some evidence that molecules can move into the brain along the olfactory nerve, so this is co
    • by Saige (53303) <evil DOT angela AT gmail DOT com> on Friday November 17, 2006 @01:33PM (#16887796) Journal
      OMG! The three-quarteres of the Earth is covered in very deep bodies of liquid nanoparticles! Even worse, the atmosphere now consists almost entirely of nanoparticles! We inhale huge amounts of them with every breath!

      WE'RE ALL GONNA DIE!
      • by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 17, 2006 @02:19PM (#16888478)
        > We're all gonna die!

        Correct.
      • by cyfer2000 (548592)
        Even worse again, almost all of the land on the Earth are covered with nano-layer or nano-needle like stuff named clay. And those black heart constructors even use the clay product to build houses!
      • by kabocox (199019)
        OMG! The three-quarteres of the Earth is covered in very deep bodies of liquid nanoparticles! Even worse, the atmosphere now consists almost entirely of nanoparticles! We inhale huge amounts of them with every breath!

        WE'RE ALL GONNA DIE!


        Yeap, usually in around 78 years is the average amount of time it'll take nano particles of water vapor in the atmosphere to kill you. I invite you to experiment breathing other types of atmospheres to see how long you life though.
        • by x2A (858210)
          "nano particles of water vapor in the atmosphere to kill you"

          I don't think it's that which kills you...

          • by kabocox (199019)
            "nano particles of water vapor in the atmosphere to kill you"
            I don't think it's that which kills you...


            Shh, I want to see if they'll experiment with breathing non-oxygen atmospheres in an attempt to experimentally extend their life. If anyone attempts this experiment, I'm fairly certain they'll be in the running for a Darwin Award. Come on any one want to try to win an award?
            • by x2A (858210)
              There's an award in it?!! Oh count me in then! :-)

            • "nano particles of water vapor in the atmosphere to kill you"
              I don't think it's that which kills you...
              Shh, I want to see if they'll experiment with breathing non-oxygen atmospheres [...]

              What exactly does water vapor have to do with oxygen? That's just incoherent.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      What's his point? It's all nano-FUD, IMO.

      I think his point is that we are dealing with familiar materials in unfamiliar configurations. When dealing with anything unknown a certain amount of uncertainty, doubt, and yes, even fear or trepidation is called for.

      Sure you can probably get away with treating that which is unknown in a cavalier fashion, making the assumption that it is perfectly safe until otherwise demonstrated to be unsafe. But of course when approaching that which is unknown in this fashion t
    • Poor logic.. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Vellmont (569020) on Friday November 17, 2006 @01:55PM (#16888142) Homepage
      So essentially your argument is:

      There exists some molecules that already enter the blood-brain barrier without problems. Therefor all molecules entering the blood-brain barrier have no problems. One could prove anything (including known falsehoods) using that kind of logic.

      What I read in the article was that when we create very very fine particles out of substances they behave differently in biological organisms than they do when they aren't in very very small particles. We really have no information on how these very fine particles might behave in biological organisms, so we really should be more cautious in including them in food products, or anything else people might injest since they really haven't been tested yet.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by geekoid (135745)
        "Whenever I hear the word activist, I reach for my revolver."
        The founding fathers were activists. As was Any of many people that caused changes.

        Just thought you might like to know that.
        • by Vellmont (569020)

          The founding fathers were activists. As was Any of many people that caused changes.

          Funny, I don't recall any of them referring to themselves as activists, or mentioning that word in writing. Thus no revolver-reaching-for.
    • by A beautiful mind (821714) on Friday November 17, 2006 @01:58PM (#16888176)
      I was originally going to write a post to show that you might not be totally justified in what you're writing, but then I realised that nano is the SI prefix for 10^-9, while a hydrogen molecule is 1.06 * 10^-10m, so you might not be completely off in saying that this is nothing new, so this is one score to you.

      However, I have to mention that the size might not be the problem, but rather the properties of these nanoparticles.

      The most important thing to remember when talking about nanoparticles, is that a lot of these materials have a unique thing in common, quoth wikipedia, "vastly increased ratio of surface area to volume". Remember for example lunar dust [wikipedia.org] and the problems associated with it? Imagine that effect on a much worse level.
    • by Ken D (100098) on Friday November 17, 2006 @02:00PM (#16888198)
      No, this is not FUD. Forget gasses and liquids, this is about solids. Solids come in non-molecular chunks. Out bodies (and the bodies of every other living thing out there) are accustomed to encountering solids that are in fairly large sized chunks. If you can find a way to process those solids into much smaller chunks then you have a nano-material. This is the stuff that's dangerous. It's true of non-nano tech too. For example if I had a large piece of asbestos, that's not really dangerous, but if I pulverize it into dust it is. These new nano materials open up the possibility that alot more materials could be dangerous.

      If I swallow a quarter, ....it'll pass. What if I swallowed something that contained a quarter shredded into pieces no larger than 100nm, will that pass? Or will large amounts get trapped in various nooks and corners in my guts, and what effect will it have if those bits stay there for 30 years? What if I breathe it into my lungs? Will it do something like asbestos dust?

      See http://www.kemcointernational.com/NANOPHASEAPPLICA TIONS.htm [kemcointernational.com] for cosmetics and foot powder containing Iron Oxide and Zinc Oxide nano materials that you can easily ingest or breathe.
      • by MikeFM (12491)
        While I don't think they shouldn't study the dangers of these new materials I think the extremist that start calling for us to abandon such new technologies are idiots that ought to be ignored. As with anything new we should carefully study it and see what the risks and benefits are and how we can lower the risks while increasing the benefits. Science isn't always safe. What major breakthrough has ever happened where someone wasn't hurt along the way? How many people died or suffered horrible damage from X-
        • by cweber (34166) <weber @ s c r i p p s . e du> on Friday November 17, 2006 @02:53PM (#16889082)
          I find your post rather callous. While you may be right that breakthroughs don't happen without associated risks and the occasional negative or outright dangerous result, I believe we've been extremely careless during the 20th century. Your Xray example is a good one. Physicists and biologists knew fairly early on Xray radiation was ionizing, but for quite some time it didn't occur to anyone to not expose themselves or others to high doses. How hard would it be to remain a bit cautious? And maybe save a few lives and make countless other better in the process.

          TFA simply advocates caution and diligent research into negative consequences of nanotech while the technology is being developed. TFA never urges abandoning anything. I agree with the author that we should keep close tabs on this stuff and watch it for long term effects.

          • by MikeFM (12491)
            Caution is not a good way to make rapid advancements. Danger is inherit in discovery. Not that I'd suggest they not do lab work first to try to make products safe before exposure to the public but I think we do more harm to ourselves by being overly cautious. How many more people will die by slowing nanotech development to half speed compared to the people who might die if we race ahead at full speed? I get so angry when I see people protesting nanotech, genetics, stem cell research, etc. These have a stron
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by wtansill (576643)
        If I swallow a quarter, ....it'll pass. What if I swallowed something that contained a quarter shredded into pieces no larger than 100nm, will that pass?
        Either way I don't want the quarter back....
    • Yeah, some molecules can pass the blood-brain barrier.

      The whole point of the statement you quoted was that it is not necessary to pass the blood-brain barrier if you can enter the brain through the nose. But that might have been to subtle...

  • by realmolo (574068) on Friday November 17, 2006 @01:25PM (#16887666)
    All that the producers of nanomaterials need to do is put a cartoon Camel on the box, and all the cool kids will be breathing nanonmaterials.

    They're perfectly safe, and prevent acne.
  • More idiots (Score:2, Insightful)

    Lets see, they advocate the government looking over the shoulder and using Wikipedia to determine danger.

    First, there is a problem with governmental idiots in charge of something they don't understand.

    Two, I don't buy Wikipedia as an authoritative source. While it is source, it could be a start point, not an end point.

    And of course this would not apply to marketing hyped products -- the nano-tech car wax and nano-tech hair shampoo; Right???
    • First, from the article:

      The Widipedia idea is something that has been talked about. And I think that either that or something like that is a very exciting idea. Of course you've always got the issue of validating the information which is there. (emphasis mine)

      Second:

      That's where you come down to talking about "oversight" rather than regulations. (some content removed) So there are ways of dealing with challenges in the near future that don't necessarily mean resorting to regulation.

      Given Andrew May

  • by 192939495969798999 (58312) <info@devi n m oore.com> on Friday November 17, 2006 @01:31PM (#16887750) Homepage Journal
    I've been working with nanotech for years, and I haven't noticed any brain damage-amage-amage-amage-amage.
  • can someone forward me the memo about today being Nanotech day on /.?
    • The memo is displayed on the front page, however the font size is so small you need an electron scanning microscope to read it.
    • Sorry, but the memo went into my brain along the olfactory nerve, completely circumventing the blood-brain barrier.
  • Yum! (Score:3, Funny)

    by tttonyyy (726776) on Friday November 17, 2006 @01:33PM (#16887794) Homepage Journal
    There is some evidence that nanoparticles can move into the brain along the olfactory nerve, so this is completely circumventing the blood-brain barrier.
    Anyone want to try my NanoBeer?

    It will happen, you know it.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    This seems to be a rising hobby, alarmism as a way of raising your personal profile. It happens every few years with each new technology, and the facts are no deterrant.

    The facts in this case are that the natural environment is FULL of nanoparticles of all sizes --- we live in a sea of them. Nature doesn't have any personal preference for particles of any given size.

    To say that something we manufacture could be dangerous is fine, but singling out nanoparticles is just plain silly. And yes, materials of a
    • Yes, it's true. There are naturally occuring particles that are extremely small. In fact this reminds me of a photograph I saw once of a mite or other small insect that was on the leg of a flea. There was a caption about how something as small and bothersome as a flea had it's own pest.

      OK, I'm through digressing. Back to the point.

      Andrew Maynard is concerned that "very, very fine particles with high surface area, lead to a greater inflammatory response...". (emphasis mine)

  • More Fun... (Score:3, Funny)

    by eno2001 (527078) on Friday November 17, 2006 @01:37PM (#16887870) Homepage Journal
    ...than a packet of greased up Yoda Dolls on a Saturday night at Karl Rove's place when Jim Jeff comes over. Wootz!!!
  • by hsmith (818216) on Friday November 17, 2006 @01:38PM (#16887884)
    If there are "dangers" associated with them, they will be PERFECT for the DoD to pickup on and investigate.

    what would be better than a bomb that goes off and you breathe in particles that can easily penetrate your organs
    • That would probably be classified as a type of chemical weapon.
  • I for one am shocked that The Magic School Bus conviently decided not to warn us of these dangers of nano-scaled foreign objects travelling through the human body :(
  • by adavies42 (746183) on Friday November 17, 2006 @01:48PM (#16888028)
    Progress requires risk. Deal.
    • by giafly (926567)
      Progress requires risk. Deal.
      True, some risk, but the issue is whether this example of progress increases overall risk.
    • by Vellmont (569020)

      Progress requires risk. Deal.

      On some level, I agree. The question of course is how much risk, and how do you manage that risk?

      I'd hope you wouldn't argue that we totally eliminate the FDA and just let people deal with the risks of the effects of untested drugs. That would be, IMO, insane.

      The arguments in the article seem entirely reasonable to me. Small particles behave differently in biological organisms. Before we go full-tilt into deploying new nano-scale materials into food products and anything els
    • Calculated risk, or blind risk?

      Progress has to be an improvement over what came before. Mesothelioma, the result of one of our previous experiments with using materials, was not progress.

      New stuff needs to be tested. That's simply good engineering.
    • by geekoid (135745)
      The way we deal is through testing.
  • Two edged sword (Score:3, Insightful)

    by stox (131684) on Friday November 17, 2006 @01:49PM (#16888040) Homepage
    For precisely the same reason that nano sized particles will be revolutionary to the world of pharmaceuticals, they may prove to be toxic in other applications.
  • Scale matters (Score:5, Insightful)

    by macklin01 (760841) on Friday November 17, 2006 @01:50PM (#16888058) Homepage

    Nature is replete with examples where scale matters. Insect-scale airfoils don't work particularly well. Jumbo jet-scale insects wouldn't fly, either. At the molecular level, flagella give great propulsion in fluids, but the same wouldn't hold at the macroscopic level.

    The same is true in biology. I remember having read a study done at NASA on the effect of iron nanoparticles in lungs. (Alas, I can't seem to find the link anymore.) They concluded that at the nano scale, the iron particles could escape the normal protections and remain in the lungs (in the interstitium and cells themselves), where they could collect and have a toxic effect, including diminished lung function. (The test rats became lethargic, etc.) All this at exposure levels that wouldn't be considered toxic at other scales.

    I've seen similar research on sunscreen. Zinc oxide particles are great protecting at UVA and UVB. However, at large scale, they're quite visible and hard to blend in. Make them smaller, and that problem goes away, but they get absorbed deeper into the skin. Make them smaller still, and it's quite possible that they'll be absorbed into the cells themselves, leading to new potential health effects. (e.g., does zinc oxide become carcinogenic when they remain in the cells for too long? Does the motion into the cells increase the likelihood of reactive oxygen species (free radicals) accumlating inside the cells, rather than outside?)

    I'm not a biochemist or a biologist (I'm a biomathematician), so I don't have the answers to these questions. But it's clear that scale really does matter, and it needs to be considered. Is the danger overhyped? Possibly, or maybe not. That's why it needs to be studied. But it's going to be important to understand these effects when we move from the low levels that occur naturally to the high levels that will occur in human-made materials and products. -- Paul

    • by NorbrookC (674063) on Friday November 17, 2006 @03:05PM (#16889248) Journal

      Is the danger overhyped? Possibly, or maybe not. That's why it needs to be studied.

      I'm old enough to remember something very similar to this back when gene splicing first became practical. Recombinant technology had a lot of hype around its promise, while at the same time there was an equal amount of hype about its dangers. Depending on which "expert" you were listening to, it was either going to solve all our problems or wipe humanity off the planet.

      The compromise was to put stringent safeguards on it. Twenty years later, we can look back and see that a lot of them were unnecessary, and that much of the hype was overblown on both sides. I think we're going to see something similar arising from nanotechnology. Yes, there's a lot of promise, and yes, there are some dangers. Until we better understand the technology, it's better to put in some safeguards, with the idea in mind that we can always relax them or tighten them.

      It's always instructive to look back, and to take some lessons from the past. Banning a technology outright because of fear doesn't work. Someone will eventually use it. At the same time, embracing a technology unreservedly also doesn't work. There are many examples of it blowing up in someone's face after-the-fact. It's not anti-technology to be aware of potential dangers and to take steps to mitigate them as you move forward. But neither should the dangers prevent you from moving forward.

      • by radtea (464814) on Friday November 17, 2006 @03:31PM (#16889632)
        I'm old enough to remember something very similar to this back when gene splicing first became practical. Recombinant technology had a lot of hype around its promise, while at the same time there was an equal amount of hype about its dangers.

        There was actually a voluntary suspension of recombinant DNA research for a short time back in the '70's. Everyone started doing it again when the truth became clear: recombination happens in nature all the time, and the mechanism was such that naturally occuring recombination was doing all the things that scientists wanted to do. Given this, it was felt there was little risk of uncontrolled side-effects. It is worth adding that this is different from believing that there is little risk (social, economic or environmental) from GMOs specifically designed to cause harm to others for the profit of some, like those containing Monsanto's Terminator gene.

        The situation with nanoparticles is a little more ambiguous. There was as story on /. today on carbon nanotubes in ancient steel, and of course the first discovery of exotic carbon allotropes was in smoke, which is not exactly a rare substance. This suggests that some forms of nanoparticles have been around in the environment for a long time. However, it does not follow from this that naturally occuring nanoparticles are similar to the ones we are trying to create. Some, like carbon nanotubes and buckyballs, are unlikely to cause harm. But given their ability to infiltrate the body's natural defenses there needs at least to be careful assessment of new nanosubstances before any are allowed to released into the environment.

        Nano-materials are nothing more than large molecules, after all, and you wouldn't want people releasing large amounts of potentially deadly substances into the environment in the fond hope that they won't harm anyone with sufficient money to sue.

        • by ColdWetDog (752185) on Friday November 17, 2006 @03:55PM (#16889962) Homepage
          There was actually a voluntary suspension of recombinant DNA research for a short time back in the '70's. Everyone started doing it again when the truth became clear: recombination happens in nature all the time, and the mechanism was such that naturally occuring recombination was doing all the things that scientists wanted to do.

          And that's exactly the point - slow down cowboy until you have some idea of what you're doing. The recombinant DNA restrictions worked exactly as designed - people slowed down a bit and studied potential downsides, worked on mitigation strategies (P level confinement - now widely used on our War on Terrorism(R)(TM)(Patent Pending by Johnson's wax)).

          Hopefully real nanotechnology will turn out to be more than marketing and venture capital hype, but it behooves us to look at potential pitfalls as well as potential progress. Besides, you should be able to get some pretty good anti terrorism funding by doing that kind of research these days.

    • Re:Scale matters (Score:4, Informative)

      by bradbury (33372) <Robert,Bradbury&gmail,com> on Friday November 17, 2006 @03:43PM (#16889812) Homepage
      Generally speaking you have to be very careful about the precise material as well as its size. Iron and copper ions for example can be very toxic due to their ability to contribute to the production of free radicals (which will damage proteins and DNA). Zinc ions on the other hand are essential and play important roles in the structure of all zinc finger regulatory proteins. Organisms have protein systems that control the transport and storage of iron and copper ions to a much greater extent than zinc ions.

      Now it seems likely that metal oxides, being noncharged, are less likely to be involved in chemical reactions (its usually very hard to get oxides to interact at all). So I would expect zinc oxide (in contrast to iron particles) to be relatively benign. The question becomes whether the body has effective mechanisms for binding to and either degrading or removing nanoparticles. If it does not then exposure is potentially cumulative and may be harmful. The normal reaction of the body to something it cannot degrade or remove is to form a granuloma (a collection of cells designed to isolate the problem) surrounding it. So depending on the precise size of the particles they might either penetrate cell membranes and accumulate within cells (which is probably not good) or potentially accumulate until the point where granulomas may form. On the skin surface that isn't bad since you are sheding the skin anyway. Within the lungs however it can be a much larger problem (as silicosis and black lung disease show).

      Nanoparticles are not new -- coal miners, blacksmiths and cooks have been dealing with them for centuries. What may be new is greater exposure to a larger variety of nanoparticles by a greater fraction of the population. That is worth being careful about but does not translate into throwing out the baby with the bathwater.
  • by neo (4625) on Friday November 17, 2006 @01:55PM (#16888138)
    I played a thought experiment with a very smart fellow. The goal of the experiment was to come up with a safe way to create self replicating nanites that could cure cancer. We had 1 nanite that would cure cancer, but it was, of course, slow. The goal was to create enough to heal an entire body.

    So the best way to make more nanites is to have the nanites make more of themselves. Seems pretty straight forward... only everytime we go about doing it we run into this little problem.

    Mutations.

    So we build these guys to start replicating and to stop replicating when we want them to... but when you make a billion of something you end up with some odd mutations. Even if you are talking about .001% mutation that's still 100,000 self replicating mistakes. If even one of those 100,000 mistakes is a mutation that just doesn't turn off self replication you now have a very bad problem.

    Released, this nanite could theoretically convert the earth (see "grey goo") into a giant ball of itself.

    Now I know this thread is going to be long, because so many of you very smart people will have so many smart ideas about how to make this safe. I'm glad you have these ideas and I'm glad you're voicing them. Some of them might even work.

    What scares the hell out of me is that you're not the people working on this.
    • Basic physics... (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Vellmont (569020)

      Released, this nanite could theoretically convert the earth (see "grey goo") into a giant ball of itself.

      There's this little problem with replication called "energy", and the laws of thermodynamics. Making order out of disorder requires energy to be expended. Exactly where is all the energy going to come from to turn everything into "grey goo"?
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      A few dozen independent mechanisms that run a checksum and which work at different points in the process to prevent reproduction, sabotage reproduction, make the mutants non-viable, make the second generation sterile, etc.

      The problem is you'll probably find out that in order to keep up with rapidly mutating and adapting cancer cells, the nanites will *need* to mutate.
      • by dsanfte (443781)
        Cancer cells usually have a single, or perhaps two or three mutations that render them malignant. They are not mutating as often as something like AIDS (which mutates often, but not as rapidly as many think).

        Indeed, were the cancer cells mutating as fast as you suggest, we wouldn't need to treat cancer; the cancer cells would eventually mutate so much so as to be unable to duplicate their chromosomes anymore, and all cancers would be self-containing. That isn't what happens, obviously.

        Nanites don't need to
    • by ceoyoyo (59147)
      Yup, self replicating minature machines will definitely convert the world into themselves. Wait... we've had self replicating minature machines around for a couple billion years and they haven't done it yet. Hm.
    • by FleaPlus (6935)
      So we build these guys to start replicating and to stop replicating when we want them to... but when you make a billion of something you end up with some odd mutations. Even if you are talking about .001% mutation that's still 100,000 self replicating mistakes. If even one of those 100,000 mistakes is a mutation that just doesn't turn off self replication you now have a very bad problem.

      Released, this nanite could theoretically convert the earth (see "grey goo") into a giant ball of itself.


      Much the same log
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by xappax (876447)
      Your point that nanotech is a high-stakes business is well taken. Just as with biotech, we should not give in too easily to the temptation and excitement of new possibilities before we have evaluated the dangers and genuinely checked our assumptions.

      However, in the spirit of brainstorming, it seems that if you create enough redundant and functionally diverse systems in the nanomachine to check itself out, and then destroy itself if it didn't check out correctly - mutations would become statistically impo
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by DamnStupidElf (649844)
      So we build these guys to start replicating and to stop replicating when we want them to... but when you make a billion of something you end up with some odd mutations. Even if you are talking about .001% mutation that's still 100,000 self replicating mistakes. If even one of those 100,000 mistakes is a mutation that just doesn't turn off self replication you now have a very bad problem.

      First of all, self replication should only be attempted after many years of successful nanotechnology, if at all. It's
    • by Alef (605149)

      The goal of the experiment was to come up with a safe way to create self replicating nanites that could cure cancer. [...] So we build these guys to start replicating and to stop replicating when we want them to... but when you make a billion of something you end up with some odd mutations. Even if you are talking about .001% mutation that's still 100,000 self replicating mistakes. If even one of those 100,000 mistakes is a mutation that just doesn't turn off self replication you now have a very bad proble

  • by OldHawk777 (19923) * <adelovant@@@verizon...net> on Friday November 17, 2006 @02:28PM (#16888622) Journal
    I remember the 1950s, sounds like the atomic bomb again, radiation poising, evil mad science, nature-gone-wild ... sounds like more B-grade scifi movies are on their way, or the new-conservative plutocrats are justified in keep everyone from behaving responsibly by not having a gun, stem-cell, nuke .... NanNO Borg the monster was a human infected by terrorist spread necrotic-nano-bots from Mars.

    If we are going to destroy our species, I wish would just get it done. Anything is better than accepting domination by fear-mongering idiots in charge (Neo-Nazi, Neoconservative, Neo/Pseudo-Christian/Moslem/Jew ...) who are continually gucken up the world for humanity.

    Give me liberty, or give me death, from the all KnowWhatsBestForYou powerful of this world.
  • ...doth not an article make. Won't someone PLEASE think of the *science* ?!
  • Consider asbestos: it's harmless in a large piece. But once that piece starts crumbling, asbestos tends to split lengthwise into thinner and thinner fibers (rather than shorter and shorter ones). Breathe those in and you might end up dying an agonising death.

    So yes, we do need to study nanoeffects of materials, even when we already know the bulk effects of those same materials.

    The interview in TFA is a bit non-committal, but one very good point was made: a set of "best practises" should be drawn up to help
  • Nanoparticles and nanostructured materials have been around for a long, long time. Just last night, there was an article posted here on how carbon nanotubes were a key component of Damascus steel. Nanoparticles are produced in many natural chemical reactions, in all biological systems and any time something burns. My point is that simply being a nanoparticle does not make something dangerous.

    New materials, or old materials put to new uses should absolutely be tested for safety, whether that new material
  • Some kinds of nano-particles may be dangerous but we shouldn't get the wrong impression that Nanotechnology is itself dangerous. Similarly, microscopic particles can be dangerous but we don't think of micro-scale technologies such as Microprocessors as being dangerous.
  • nano (Score:2, Informative)

    by H0D_G (894033)
    as a student in a nanotech degree, I have to laugh at the conjectures here. all of these comments about "grey goo" and self replicating "nanites" are pure alarmism. Drexler himself doesn't believe it's possible. and as for all of this screaming about the control of nanomaterials, powder technologies are only a very small part of the whole nanotech research area. most of the research that I've come in to contact with has been focused not on powders but on surfaces and coatings, or biomedical sources, which i
  • And Strict enforcement of critical safey regulation. This is of course said in the same breath as the acknowledgement that we live in a world where people get away with illegally dumping every kind of toxic chemical horror (particularly in third world contries.)

    It's true that nano tubes can do serious biological damage, it's also true that by simply adding a terminating metal ion, those same tubes lose their biological danger. We need to make certain that we come up with sane and safe ways to create, use

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